Interview: Lulu Love Tour Founder, Alicia Casas.
In August 2018, the Second Edition of the Lulu Love Tour took place with a special stop in Norway as well as a festival-style event in Catalonia Spain. Lulu Love Tour Founder Alicia Casas sat down to tell us a little more about this project of her heart.
For those who still haven’t heard about the Lulu Love Tour, can you tell us a little about it?
AC: The Lulu Love Tour is named for New Zealand kayaker Louise “Lulu” Jull, who passed away in 2015. The LLT is a collective project designed to spread the “Lulu Love » by connecting individuals with the amazing community that surrounds the sport of whitewater kayaking. The objective is to bring people together by organizing non-profit events geared towards increasing participation in kayaking and outdoor life while reflecting the same love for the sport that Lulu had.
This year, the tour did two different stops. Where did they take place? What was the aim of each event?
AC: In late July, a small expedition took place in Norway. The trip was led by Mariann Saether, who carried Lou’s ashes to the heart of the beautiful Glomaga River. Lulu fell in love with this magical place when she visited it in July of 2014, so the idea of putting her to rest in one of her favorite places in the world was definitely the reason why we felt the need to stop in this piece of paradise. The second stop, in Sort, Catalonia, was completely different. One of the main purposes of the Lulu Love Tour is to give something back to the community. Sort is one of the best destinations for whitewater kayaking in southern Europe but surprisingly the kayaking community there is mainly formed by men. Last year, we organized a ladies-only event that was a great success and wanted to repeat it this year. Witnessing the reactions and feedback of participants, organizers, and spectators confirmed that not only are there many talented women eager to grow as kayakers out there, but also the necessity of creating more opportunities to build confidence and help develop the female kayaking community.
How has the LLT event evolved from last year?
AC: By organizing clinics, the LLT creates an opportunity for the local whitewater community to learn, practice, and improve personal whitewater and kayaking techniques. The clinics also promote the spirit of getting out there and enjoy every moment. This is why we try to keep this style of activity on any LLT edition. While we also kept the four-hour Whitewater Rescue Course run by certified instructors, we also wanted to offer something different, so this year in Spain, we put together a variety of races, including a mass-start, ladies-only race, The Noguera Pallaresa Women’s Race. The race took place on the classic class III section of the Noguera Pallaresa River and was seven kilometers or around 30-minutes long. Following the event, all the racers and the safety crew and anyone comfortable with this stretch joined for a Stoke Float to Rialp. The second race was an Expert H2H down the Sort slalom course. Two paddlers raced at once through a circuit of seven gates, including two upstreams. Racers had to make it through several heats to win the title. Finally, the last race of the day was dedicated to the more novice paddlers. The Novice H2H brought all smiles and good times for both competitors and spectators.
Was the event focus solely about racing then?
AC: Lulu is the main motivator behind this whole project. She was passionate about getting more women participating in kayaking, and she was also very committed to promoting and the sport and protecting the river environment. As such, another primary goal of our project is to encourage conservation river and create awareness about threats to our rivers. After the awards ceremony of the Noguera Pallaresa Women’s Race, we introduced and played the documentary “The Vjosa Story,” a leeway-collective film in which a group of kayakers explores the last free-flowing river in Europe, the Vjosa. This was our humble way to support our friends from BRD (Balkan River Defense) in their fight for the defense of wild rivers of the Balkan Peninsula.
What does the future hold for the LLT?
AC: We have a couple of ideas in mind. We are definitely hoping to put together an event in NZ soon as well as bringing the Tour to North America next spring-summer. We’ll also do our best to repeat the event in Sort. We are open for anything, so stay tuned for news updates and save a date to join the Lulu Love Tour!
How can others help join or support the LLT?
AC: As we all know, whitewater kayaking is not the most popular sport in the world – although it is by far the most fun, haha. But seriously, it is hard to get outside companies involved to support events. For now, all our funds come from our “pockets.” We believe in and commit to what we do so we don’t care about anything other than keeping our beloved project going. We work hard to make these little events happen, and we are confident that slowly we’ll get more people involved. If people want to get involved, they should visit our website, lulutour.com, or our Facebook page. On another note, we are beyond thankful for the unconditional support we have received from companies that believe in us as much as we do and happily give us a hand. This year we were so proud and honored to partner with top brands such as NRS, Hiko and GoPro. We also want to give a big THANK YOU to all the local people, kayak clubs and other sponsors that help us to make the LLT- Sort’18 happen.
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More info go to lululovetour.com